Storm over beach huts

Over 1000 concerned residents have signed a petition over the removal of beach huts in Muizenberg.

The social media outcry began last week, after residents were informed some of the huts would be removed as they were in a derelict state and a safety risk.

The petition calls for an “immediate cessation of the removal plans”.

“It has been made known that the iconic beach huts (those remaining) on Muizenberg beach are to be reduced in number or removed altogether due to their slow degradation and abuse by homeless people and other anti-social elements. It has been argued that they pose a threat and are expensive to maintain. It appears that this decision has been made without due consultation with the local community. Alternative proposals have been invited for their replacement with a windbreak only after some inquiries and reaction on social media,” the petition reads.

“The removal of this important part of our heritage represents a capitulation to social ills and is a reactionary approach to a problem which needs to be addressed with alternative means as their removal will not address these problems.”

The petition also calls for a “broad plan to address the maintenance of the beach huts and the social ills affecting the area holistically” as well as “thorough consultation with the community”.

Brett Herron, Mayco member for transport and urban development, says the beach huts are an “iconic part of the Cape Town landscape and are definitely not being ­removed”.

“As part of the City of Cape Town restructuring, the management of all beach huts will move to the newly created transport and urban development authority within the next few months. The discussions around beach huts led to the concerns around a number of dilapidated huts on the eastern side of Muizenberg beach close to the river mouth. These huts are not located at Surfers Corner. The dilapidated huts near the river mouth are underused and in a state of disrepair,” he says.

The doors have been removed due to antisocial behaviour in the area and the huts pose a “public security risk as criminals have been observed using them as a way of ambushing beach users in muggings”, Herron says.

The huts are also used for “overnight shelter or for prostitution or other criminal activities”.

Muizenberg police spokesperson Captain Stephen Knapp could not confirm this criminal activity, saying “there are no reported incidents of crime” in the area of the beach huts.

“We have noted the alleged drug abuse and prostitution and are looking into the matter,” he says.

Discussions on the future management of the beach huts at Surfers Corner and the dilapidated huts near the river mouth have started, Herron adds. No decision has been made on the removal of the dilapidated huts near the river mouth, Herron adds, and the City is looking into refurbishing the beach huts at Surfers Corner.

“Beach bathing huts at Surfers Corner will definitely remain a part of the Muizenberg experience.”

Ward councillor Amiee Kuhl has welcomed the community’s comments on social media but adds that “the outcry on social media was largely fuelled by half-truths”.

“In the last few days an emotional and heated debate on the future of the east-side bathing boxes in Muizenberg has been making the rounds on social media. Above all that was said, it is great to see how passionate Muizenberg is about the boxes. Although it has been portrayed otherwise at no point was I in favour of removing all of them and I fully understand the value they have,” she says.

“As public representatives we do not have direct authority over City officials or departments, but I do take communicating my community’s concerns to the City very seriously. I cannot change the fact that the City is under huge pressure to deliver basic services to a growing population. I’m not saying that this means preserving heritage is not equally important.”

The City will not have the budget to maintain all the beach huts, says Kuhl.

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